In collaboration with Jessie Inchauspé (@GlucoseGoddess)
While it might feel like it, we aren’t powerless when faced with a Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) diagnosis. We have agency to transform our health. And today, we’re discussing the power right in front of us several times a day – the power in our plate.
Scientists have discovered a remarkable connection between blood sugar and PCOS. Eating in a way that keeps our blood sugar levels steady can have a tremendous impact on the severity of symptoms. We now know more than ever about this link, and how to use this information to our advantage. Let’s dive in.
Recent advances are making it clear that PCOS is a disease of too much insulin. First, insulin tells the ovaries to produce more testosterone (the male hormone). Second, excessive insulin prevents the conversion from male to female hormones in the body. As a result, testosterone accumulates. This leads to well-known PCOS symptoms: hair growth on the face, hair loss on the head, stopped or deregulated ovulation, missed periods, acne, weight gain, and infertility.
And what’s the principal cause of too much insulin in the body? Blood sugar spikes.
The more blood sugar spikes, the more insulin, the more PCOS symptoms. In many cases, someone with PCOS will also have difficulty with weight loss – because with too much insulin present, the body is prevented from burning fat.
When blood sugar spikes are reduced, things fall into place: in a small study performed at Duke University, women who went on a blood-sugar-steadying diet for six months cut their insulin levels by half, and, as a consequence, their testosterone levels by 25%. Body weight dropped and body hair diminished as hormones came into balance, and two women out of the twelve participants became pregnant in the course of study.
So there is the good news: there are easy things we can do to reduce our blood sugar spikes, reduce our insulin levels, and as a consequence impact our PCOS symptoms.
Below are two of our top tips.
1. Incorporate vinegar into your diet
While people have been drinking vinegar for centuries, it’s only recently that scientists have been able to understand the mechanisms behind its health benefits on blood sugar, insulin, and PCOS symptoms.
Regardless of our diet, what or when we eat, incorporating a tablespoon of vinegar into our day has a powerful impact on all of the above.
Here’s how it works: before meals, mix a teaspoon (and work your way up to a tablespoon) of vinegar (any type, apple cider vinegar is the most commonly used) into a tall glass of water. Drink it, ideally with a straw to protect your teeth.
The impact? The blood sugar spike of the meal will be reduced by up to 30%, and the insulin by up to 20%. Vinegar works by increasing our muscle’s uptake of glucose while reducing the insulin required to do so.
We can eat the exact same thing, while helping our PCOS symptoms.
The studies bear this out: in healthy, insulin resistant, type 1 diabetics and type 2 diabetics alike, as little as one tablespoon a day significantly decreases glucose levels immediately, and over time. A small pilot study was run specifically on women with PCOS: four out of seven women got their periods back in 40 days when they added one ACV drink a day.
If it’s easy for you, incorporate this tip into your day. If you want some recipes for drinks made with vinegar, see a few ideas here.
When we incorporate vinegar into our diet, we can enjoy the same meals with less of an impact on our blood sugar levels.
2. Eat foods in the right order
We often hear tips on what and what not to eat – but science is revealing an elegant solution to steadying our blood sugar without changing what we add to our plate at all.
Scientists have discovered that if we eat the components of a meal in a specific order, we reduce the overall glucose spike by up to 73%, and the insulin released in response to the meal by up to 48%. This is a remarkably powerful tool. We can eat the exact same meal as before, while helping alleviate our PCOS symptoms.
What is the right order? It’s veggies first, protein and fat second, starches and sugars last. In a meal consisting, for example, of bread, jerk chicken, butter, rice, broccoli, and a fruit salad, we do best for our glucose levels if we start with the broccoli, the chicken and the butter, and have the rice and bread towards the later part of the meal. And then, the fruit salad last.
Simple, and very effective. By eating in this way, the fiber, the protein and the fat slow down and reduce the absorption of any glucose arriving afterwards.
We don’t need to be draconian about it, either: we should only do it when it’s easy (no need to separate out the ingredients in an avocado toast or a paëlla), and we can still mix some mouthfuls together. We just need to keep in mind to frontload the veggies, protein and fat, and reserve the starches and sugars for as late in the meal as possible. We can also add a starter consisting of veggies to our meal for an increased effect.
Eating foods in the right order is a super effective way to reduce our glucose and insulin spikes, and to help our PCOS.
There you have it. Easy science-backed tips to empower you to make an impact on your blood sugar, insulin, and PCOS symptoms. Reach out and let us know how it’s going.
Author bio: Jessie Inchauspé is the founder of the widely popular Instagram account @glucosegoddess, teaching hundreds of thousands about healthy food habits. She holds a Bachelor’s in mathematics from Kings’ College, London, and a Master’s in biochemistry from Georgetown University. Her first book, Glucose Revolution, is out in Spring 2022.
- Ben Bikman, Why We Get SIck, 2020